Monthly Archives: January 2015

Dr Masuma Hasan: In Memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan: I.A. Rehman’s Address on ‘The Politics of Dissent’

Fatehyab did not give up. Perhaps he did not know how to do that …

The beautiful and historic library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs was packed to capacity when Ibn Abdur Rehman, better known as I.A. Rehman, spoke on The Politics of Dissent in memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan. The younger members of the audience had to stand throughout the session. I.A. Rehman is the Secretary General of The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and is one of the leading human rights defenders in Pakistan. He is the founding chair of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy and received the Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2004. Fatehyab’s was a most powerful voice of dissent in politics in Pakistan and, therefore, it was appropriate that Rehman Sahib should have spoken on this subject in his memory.

Throughout his life, Fatehyab fought for fundamental freedoms, democratic values, political morality and decency in public life. He was only 25 years old when he led the movement against Ayub Khan in 1961, which spread throughout West Pakistan, while the political parties sat on the fence. He was interned, externed and imprisoned throughout his political career but he never lost his sense of humour. See past posts on this event here, here and here.

During the agitation against Ziaul Haq’s tyrannical regime, he was one of the nine signatories of the declaration of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD, 1981). During this movement, he sacrificed and suffered, worked tirelessly and also brought the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party (PMKP), of which he was president, into mainstream politics. He never compromised on his principles and never bartered his political ideology for any material gain. Contrary to the familiar custom in Pakistan, he never switched political parties and remained president of PMKP until his death in 2010.

According to Rehman Sahib:

The politics of dissent began on the very morrow of independence with stirrings in both religious and non-religious camps. The challenge from the religious right has run through all the six decades of independence from success to success for its warriors have followed a policy of nibbling at state power bit by bit. Its 22 points won it the Objectives Resolution; it won a major battle when Islamic provisions were inserted in the 1956 constitution and again when it forced Ayub Khan to restore the words ‘Islamic Republic’ that he had deleted from the constitution-like document prepared and enforced in his personal discretion; it persuaded the PPP founders to string democracy, socialism and religion together in their rosary; it facilitated the government’s acquisition of authority to decide who is a Muslim and who is not and it cheered Ziaul Haq as he created religious courts with powers to usurp the functions of the legislature. The holy warriors’ march has not ended. Now the religious groups claim to have raised a madrassa force that, according to them, could seize the reins of power any time. Still, the politics of the religious parties does not fully qualify for the label of dissent; it is more in the nature of catalytic action in support of the religious strand in the ideal of Pakistan.

He stated that the religious right was successful because, to a considerable extent, the non-religious centrist parties were reluctant:

to challenge the state’s drift.

Rehman Sahib traced the narrative of evolving dissent among centrist and leftist parties, leading to the formation of the Pakistan National Party in 1956 and later of the National Awami Party. By 1957, an alternative narrative had emerged due to the ground work done by provincial and regional parties. The PPP government, which took over what was left of Pakistan in 1971, offered a promise of change for dissidents but its own lack of tolerance for other political parties closed the space for the politics of dissent. Since 1977, this dissent has been confined to agitations for restoration of democracy. The politics of dissent has now been taken up by the small left of centre parties and nationalist parties in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The politics of dissent, said Rehman Sahib, has not been the exclusive concern of opposition parties. A great part has been played by persons and groups “that have done politics without assuming the title of political parties” such as poets, and four categories of activists – students, lawyers, journalists and women. He mentioned the fire of dissent which was kept burning by poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Gul Khan Naseer, Sheikh Ayaz, Amir Hamza Shinwari, Qalander Mehmand, Habib Jalib, Ahmad Faraz, Fehmida Riaz and Kishwar Naheed and others who have sustained “the dignity of dissent and the beleaguered forces of sanity” with their songs of freedom, resistance, justice and hope.

Rehman Sahib described Fatehyab Ali Khan as a “restless activist who succeeded in carving out a role for himself in any situation for challenging the status quo and the conventional wisdom behind it. He was a star in the extraordinarily brilliant galaxy created by the National Students Federation and his stewardships of the Karachi University Students Union is one of the glorious chapters in Pakistan’s history of students movements.”

He brought his zest for change into politics which he preferred to making money as a lawyer and he supported any political cause which sought support. During the Zia period, he was one of the most consistently active leaders of the MRD and he propped up the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party when the Hashtnagar agitation had fizzled out and the party broke into factions:

Fatehyab did not give up. Perhaps he did not know how to do that.

Rehman Sahib spoke about Fatehyab’s “long and distinguished career in the politics of dissent,” saying that “I pay respect to Fatehyab Ali Khan not only because he was the head of the Institute that has hosted this event, and which he saved from being gobbled up by sarkari qabza groups, but because I can present him as a representative” of those“ who stood their ground in the face of tyranny and refused to succumb to blandishments and bribe.”

Finally, what has the politics of dissent achieved in Pakistan, he asked? Most political dissidents have been maligned and punished for their leftist inclinations. Although they never came to power, these dissidents have left their unmistakable mark on the growth of progressive ideas, on people’s linguistic and cultural rights, land reforms and an independent foreign policy. They fought for civil liberties and human freedoms and offered an alternative to the establishment-sponsored mindset.

How different Pakistan’s history might have been, he lamented, if the voices of dissent had been heeded:

But then all those who dismiss ideas of change as heresy close the path to their progress.

The questions Rehman Sahib fielded related mostly to the victimization of leftist parties. On a lighter note, as I looked around the audience, I was delighted to see the Station House Officer of the Artillery Maidan Police Station. He addresses me as maan ji.

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State’s Anti-India Posture Caused Gradual Transfer of Power to Military

nprCoverage of The Politi­cs of Dissent in Pakistan in Dawn by Peerzada Salman

Yesterday’s lecture was organised in memory of the distinguished political leader Fatehyab Ali Khan at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs’ library. The Secretary General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Mr I.A. Rehman explained that dissent implied presenting alternatives to state narratives. Alternatives to what, he asked, and answered that it was to do with the dominant narratives that developed because of a lack of clarity and interpretation of ideas before independence. When Mohammad Ali Jinnah was asked about the nature of Pakistani nationhood, the markers that he chose to define it came from religious traditions, which created a problem. He chose to define the history of Muslims of India different from their Hindu compatriots.

Regional communities (Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis, etc) were ignored as well as what was common and uncommon between them, he said. Still, Mr Jinnah maintained that Islamic principles would be followed in Pakistan but it would not be a theocracy. At the time of independence, he said, there were three groups who had their opinion on the matter and a large group of which supported sharia state. Realizing the danger of the issue, Mr Jinnah called for a new nationhood on the basis of citizenship but perhaps did not take his colleagues into confidence which was why his 11 August 1947 speech was not allowed to get published.

Mr Rehman said the price was paid in 1949 in the form of the Objectives Resolution and the country moved towards becoming a theocratic state.

He said Ayub Khan tried to apply the brakes but actually strengthened the clergy. In 1965 during the war with India, people’s religious sentiments were evoked not the love of the motherland, he argued. The Centre later gained more power, he added.

Mr Rehman then touched upon the issue of foreign policy. He said Mr Jinnah wanted foreign policy to be governed by the principles of friendship with all and malice to none which was discarded in his lifetime and the country entered into western military pacts in the early 1950s, turning into a security state. The element of permanent hostility towards India followed and with conflict over Kashmir the anti-India posture was maintained, resulting in a gradual transfer of power to the military, he said.

Mr Rehman said the politics of dissent began from the time of independence, to little avail. Ayub Khan had to restore the words ‘Islamic Republic’ into the country’s name, and the process to decide who’s Muslim who’s not took root. Mr Jinnah wanted non-Muslims to join the Muslim League; it didn’t happen and it became a Muslims-only party, he said. No one opposed the Objectives Resolution, and even Mian Iftikharuddin believed nobody’s going to follow it, until General Zia aggravated things. As a result, agitation was witnessed and women came out against the Hudood Ordinance.

Going back to independence, he said, it was Begum Shaista Ikramullah who first spoke for the Bengali linguistic right but was silenced and told it didn’t befit a woman to speak on such matters. Urdu contributed to another dimension to state ideology. Carrying on with his point, he briefly talked about the Awami League, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and agitation in Balochistan.

Mr Rehman said it was in 1957 that alternatives began to emerge with the arrival of the National Awami Party on the scene, frightening the establishment as a result of which pacts were withdrawn. Things, however, didn’t change much and subsequently Ayub Khan experimented with partyless politics. The Awami League and the PPP challenged Ayub Khan a bit, but the military kept its control, he added.

According to the HRCP secretary general, the politics of dissent since 1977 had largely been confined to agitation for the restoration of democracy, and in the 1981 accord the objectives of the movement were spelled out. Yet democracy achieved little, Mr Rehman commented, adding that for the past 25 years opposition parties became indistinguishable from the parties in power.

He said the politics of dissent was not exclusive to political parties as the role played by poets, journalists, lawyers and students was no less significant. Poets, he said, had kept the fire of dissent alive and in that regard he took the names of Faiz, Sheikh Ayaz and Habib Jalib. He also lauded the part played by students’ organisation such as the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) that resisted state oppression and not just fought for the students’ community but for the people as a whole. Bar councils’ struggle was appreciated too as was journalists’ contribution to the whole situation. He claimed that journalists had the clearest voice against General Ayub Khan.

Reverting to students’ part, Mr Rehman praised Fatehyab Ali Khan’s contribution to a great struggle and called him a star in the galaxy created by the National Students Federation (NSF) and remarked:

He brought his zest of change into politics.

Mr Rehman said the politics of dissent did cause a rethinking on some matters such as land reforms, language issues (belatedly in the case of Bengali) and the involvement in the non-aligned movement. Also, today every politi­cian was using the slogans that dissenters had used.

After the presentation, the floor was opened for a question-and-answer session.

Earlier, PIIA Chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan introduced the speaker to the audience and briefly shed light on the achievements of the late Fatehyab Ali Khan, including his role in restoring the PIIA to its original position after General Zia tried to turn it into a government institution.

Objectives Resolution Bade Farewell To Quaid’s Ideals: I.A. Rehman

Fatehyab Ali Khan was the brightest star in the galaxy of progressive politicians …

The Objectives Resolution of 1949 bade farewell to the Quaid-e-Azam’s ideals of equality for all citizens and his principles of fair governance. This was stated by I.A. Rehman while addressing The members of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the media in his talk, “Politics of dissent in Pakistan” as part of the series of the Fatehyab Ali Khan Memorial Lectures on Saturday evening. He said all governments had slowly capitulated to the dictates of the religious parties. “Today, even the Shariat Court has pronounced a verdict against land reforms terming them against the spirit of religion,” he said.

As for dissent, he defined it as presentation of an alternative to the ruling government. However, in our case it was construed as rebellion or treason. According to Mr Rehman, there has been a lack of clarity about Pakistan’s ideals. For instance, in the beginning, there was a view in Pakistan according to which, Islamic principles would govern the country it would not be a theocratic state. It was stipulated that Islamic principles were compatible with democracy.

He said Mr Jinnah’s position that Pakistan would follow a neutral foreign policy with friendship for all and malice towards none was violated by successive rulers.

Dissent, said Rehman, made an appearance in 1954 with the Cold War having taken birth only a few years earlier. He therefore said that:

Pakistan started going straight into the lap of the US through the US-sponsored anti-communist military pacts which brought about lots of dissent not only between the government and the political parties but also within the ruling circles.

Citing the election of communists to the then NWFP, now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which motivated the government of the day to ban the Pakistan Communist Party.

The dominant voice of dissent, he said, came in 1957 with demands from all leftist parties and others to walk out of the US-sponsored military pacts. According to him, the situation was compounded when Ayub Khan grabbed power in 1958 and started off his rule of party-less politics.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Awami League (AL) emerged as forces of dissent but the PPP also generated into intolerance.

“During the Zia Years, the role of dissenters suffered most, especially those who spoke up against Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan Jihad,” he said. “The politics of dissent has not just been the domain of political parties.”

In this context, Rehman cited the valiant role of the student organisations, Fehmida Riaz, Shaikh Ayaz, Habib Jalib, and last but not least, women’s organisations like the Women’s Action Forum (WAF). He also showered accolades on journalists and lawyers for their resistance to dictatorial and oppressive regimes.

In essence, Mr Rehman, a redoubtable champion of human rights in Pakistan, was of the view that the late Fatehyab Ali Khan was:

The brightest star in the galaxy of progressive politicians and student leaders, struggling to bring about democracy and socioeconomic justice.

Slightly edited version of article published by the News as Objectives Resolution bade farewell to Quaid’s ideals: IA Rehman.

In Memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan: ‘The Politics of Dissent in Pakistan’

Fatehyab Ali Khan, who served as Chairman of the Council of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs from 1995 to 2009, passed away in September 2010. He was a legendary figure in the public and national life of Pakistan. A visionary in politics, his struggle for democracy, fundamental freedoms, justice in society and the rule of law forms a glowing chapter in the history of our country. His support for the cause of the oppressed and underprivileged will long be remembered. I. A. Rehman, Secretary-General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, will address the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on ‘The Politics of Dissent in Pakistan’ on Saturday, 24 January 2015 at 4:15 p.m. sharp in the Library of the Institute. The Chairman and members of the Council cordially invite you to attend this session which is being held to honour Fatehyab’s memory and political struggle for democracy.

Fatehyab’s family migrated from Hyderabad Deccan to Pakistan after the Partition and settled in Shikarpur and Karachi. His bold stand against injustices in the local education system made him prominent at a very early age. Gifted with unusual organizing skills, persuasiveness and charm, he joined the National Students Federation and soon assumed leadership roles in the student community. He was elected as Vice President of Islamia College Students’ Union (at that time the president used to be an official), President of Karachi University Students’ Union and Chairman of the Inter-Collegiate Body. He was a brilliant debater.

During the students’ movement against Ayub Khan’s martial law, when political parties were quiet spectators, Fatehyab shot to fame as a national figure. He was tried as Accused Number One and convicted by a military court in 1961. After he had served his sentence, along with other activists, he was twice externed from all parts of the country, except Quetta. In course of time, he took up law as his profession in Karachi.

Fatehyab’s greatest contribution to politics came during the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) as a fearless fighter against Ziaul Haq’s martial law regime. The Mazdoor Kissan Party, of which he was president, was a member of the alliance. He worked tirelessly to organize and spread the movement and to develop a consensus for the alliance to work from a common platform in the future, which was not to be. The decade of the 1980s was a period of internments, externments, trial by a military court and numerous prison terms for Fatehyab.

Whenever he found respite during the 1980s, Fatehyab turned his attention to the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, of which he had become a member in 1972. In 1980, Ziaul Haq had taken over the Institute through a presidential ordinance, turning it virtually into a government department. Between prison terms and other commitments, Fatehyab led a determined and courageous legal campaign to get the Institute restored to its original independent and non-official status. After many setbacks, his persistence triumphed and the presidential ordinance was declared ultra vires of the constitution by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1993.

In 1995, Fatehyab was elected as Chairman of the Institute’s Council, a position he held until 2009. As Chairman, he jealously guarded the independent character of the Institute, countering all pressure with the strength of his own personality. He followed an open door policy and generously allowed access, especially to young people, to its rich library holdings. Free from traditional prejudices, he was a great supporter of the women’s movement and especially encouraged the young women researchers at the Institute in their careers.

He was a prolific writer and has left behind a rich archive consisting of numerous constitutional petitions filed by him against martial law, articles on constitutional and international issues, political analyses and statements. These documents reflect not only his own commitment and contribution but also the dilemmas of the times in which he lived.

Admired for his cultured and gentle manner, Fatehyab was a literary connoisseur and a lover of all music forms. He was universally respected for his integrity and never compromised on his principles or sought any favours. Wealth and material assets, which bring security to many, meant nothing to him. We will miss his wisdom, civility, and wit – for example, musing about his life, he would smile engagingly and say:

Mein aik nazaryati admi hun (I am a man of ideology).

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